Active auditory mechanics in mosquitoes

Martin C. Gopfert, Daniel Robert

Abstract

In humans and other vertebrates, hearing is improved by active contractile properties of hair cells. Comparable active auditory mechanics is now demonstrated in insects. In mosquitoes, Johnston's organ transduces sound-induced vibrations of the antennal flagellum. A non-muscular ‘motor’ activity enhances the sensitivity and tuning of the flagellar mechanical response in physiologically intact animals. This motor is capable of driving the flagellum autonomously, amplifying sound-induced vibrations at specific frequencies and intensities. Motor-related electrical activity of Johnston's organ strongly suggests that mosquito hearing is improved by mechanoreceptor motility.